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‘SKY HOOKS’ FAIL TO PROTECT SOLAR PANEL INSTALLER

Firm fined over fall and failure to think through safety system

Specialist solar panel company, Gendex Limited, has been fined after an installer fell through a rooflight on a Community Centre, in New Milton, Dorset on on 17 February 2012. The workman landed on a raised MEWP platform which ‘broke’ his fall. 

Southampton Magistrates heard (7 March) that the company was installing 68 solar panels on the flat roof of the building over three days.

HSE investigators established:

  • Roof access – access to the roof was provided by use of a MEWP;
  • Harness attachment – safety harnesses were provided with training but there were no points to which the harness could be attached on the roof itself; and
  • Fall protection– no protection had been provided for either the edge of the roof or the two rooflights that were present.

Magistrates were told the company had decided it was sufficient to merely warn employees about the potential fall risks rather than install any safety measures that may have damaged the roof fabric. Scaffolding was also ‘ruled out’ as a very last resort.

The company was fully aware of the need to carefully control and manage all work at height having been served with a Prohibition Notice by HSE in March 2006.

No excuse for failing to do more to mitigate risk

Gendex Limited, of Swanage, was fined a total of £13,000 and ordered to pay £2,477 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Adam Wycherley said:

“Work at height is inherently fraught with risk, and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry.

Thankfully the worker avoided injury on this occasion, but he was extremely fortunate to do so. The fall was entirely preventable and Gendex Ltd has no excuse for failing to do more than they did to mitigate the risks he and others faced.

Roof work must be properly planned and appropriate safety equipment provided.”

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